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How Can Dental Fillings Fail?

By Bruce Wilderman on January 23, 2014

Philadelphia Cracked FillingsAfter a tooth has been reduced by injury or decay, a dental filling is often necessary to restore it and prevent further damage. Unfortunately, even the strongest of filling materials cannot last indefinitely, and will need replacement at some point. Additionally, a number of factors can result in fillings becoming cracked or in danger of failing.

To help our Philadelphia patients prolong the strength and beauty of their smiles, we offer the following information on the potential ways that fillings can be weakened. With the right at-home care and professional treatment, you can ensure your teeth are never unnecessarily compromised.      

Cracked Fillings

Although filling materials are made to be durable and withstand the daily pressures of biting and chewing, they are still prone to damage under certain circumstances. Although rare, a filling can crack or chip just like natural teeth. Direct physical injury is one obvious way that fillings can break, but other sources of stress can also lead to eventual cracks:

  • Placement of a filling: Fillings that protrude beyond the rest of the tooth’s surface or endure a great amount of stress from biting are more likely to crack. This can partially be avoided by finding a skilled and experienced cosmetic dentist.    
  • Teeth grinding: Also called bruxism, the habitual grinding or clenching of teeth will increase the odds of a restoration becoming damaged. Bruxism is also harmful to your overall dental health, and warrants consultation with your dentist.
  • Biting and chewing: Biting into hard food or objects can crack teeth as well as fillings. This risk increases for fillings that comprise a greater portion of the tooth.

Leaking Fillings

A filling is referred to as “leaking” when there is space between it and the surrounding tooth tissue. Although hardened filling material cannot actually leak, this gap in the tooth does allow for other complications. Bacteria, saliva, and food particles can enter this space, resulting in the formation of plaque and thus decay. If a leaking filling is not repaired or replaced, a new cavity can form in the tooth, resulting in further tissue loss and the need for a larger restoration such as a dental crown.

Leaks can sometimes be identified by discoloration if they are present near a tooth’s surface, appearing as a dark line at the edge of the filling. Tooth sensitivity may also be indication of a leak.    

Worn Fillings

Even when fillings are expertly made and well taken care of, they are prone to eventual wear. The expected lifespan of a filling depends on its material, with gold, amalgam (silver), and porcelain fillings often lasting 15 years or longer. Because wear is gradual and not easily noticeable on the exterior, patients should refer to their dentist regarding the status of old restorations. While worn fillings do not present immediate risks in and of themselves, their ability to protect and strengthen teeth decreases as time goes on. 

Tooth Decay

While dental restorations cannot be affected by tooth decay, the surrounding tooth still can. For this reason, it is important to maintain diligent at-home hygiene and professional cleanings for all teeth and their restorations. If new decay develops in a filled tooth, additional tissue will have to be removed and filled, leading to further tissue loss. The best way to increase the effectiveness and duration of a filling is to keep it clean and well cared for.

Need a Filling Replaced?

If you require a new filling or similar restoration, we’re happy to help. From elegant tooth-colored fillings to dental crowns and implants, our office can provide an array of restorative and cosmetic services for your smile. Contact us to schedule an appointment or an initial consultation with Dr. Wilderman.

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